When you say the word 'productivity', what's the first image that comes to mind?
- Is it your place of work?
- Getting lots of boring and mundane tasks out of the way?
- Maybe it's a vision of you working a large number of hours without a break.
Productivity is not just about getting lots done in the corporate world. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that's not even close to an accurate definition.
I define productivity as doing the right actions at the right time. Pretty simple. Probably a bit too simple. However simplicity is a key tool in helping you live a productive life.
Using a definition like the one above helps us in many ways.
Firstly, you can see that productivity isn't restricted to the workplace. Far from it. How many times have you heard the phrase "I think I need to go to work for a break!". This alone tells you that there are times we need to get a handle on things at home.
You know the scene. The kids have decided they are NOT going to get on with each other this weekend. You've got after-school clubs to ferry them to. The washing basket is over-flowing. Projects you want to complete that just never seem to get off the ground. All around you, you see a series of incompletes and that whole sensation of wading through treacle starts to manifest itself.
I'm writing about this because I go through this every day, even now - that feeling of overwhelm, the constant battle to keep those plates spinning. I've just learnt to accept the situation.
Acceptance isn't about letting the unfinished tasks go. No, that would be a negative. I see this acceptance as an understanding that I am doing the right things at the right time. If my daughter has a dance class at 6:00pm, then I need to leave the house to take her at around 5:30pm. The tea may need cooking, or if we have had tea then the washing-up will certainly need attention - however rather than worry about it, I've learnt to accept that doing the dance run is the right thing to do at that time. So am I being productive when I'm taxiing Lilia around? Yes indeed, it's the right thing.
Next, it's important to remember that productivity isn't restricted to busy work. It's not all about tidying up, creating things, cleaning and fixing.
What do you do (hopefully) every night? You go to bed. Is that productive? Would you consider that as being a productive thing to do? Your instinct says No, but look back at the definition I gave earlier. Is going to bed the right thing to do at that time? It's not as if you've completed every single action item from every project you have underway at the moment. There will be things that need tidying, ordering, cleaning when you wake up.
Your body and mind need recharging - you know this, it's not as though I'm telling you something new. Yet there aren't many people who see rest as being productive. Giving yourself the energy to face the next day with enthusiasm and vigour is possible one of the most important daily tasks you will do. I still try and get a 'caffeine nap' during an afternoon to help refresh me for the evening!
Personally, I have time scheduled during the week to make sure I go on my games console. In fact, I try my level best to ensure I get this time daily. Do I feel unproductive during this time? Not at all. In fact, sometimes when I'm transported to that other world, I frequently find myself grabbing my phone and noting down some ideas I've had about a project I'm working on, or would like to work on in the future. Disconnecting from everything is often the right thing to do to give my brain time to process.
So next time you berate yourself for having an unproductive day, look back on it in a little more detail. Ask yourself 'What else could I have done with that time?". Look at the things you have achieved and, if there are genuine improvements you can make, start your new day tomorrow armed with that knowledge.
Productivity isn't just for work - it's for YOU.